Voucher Provisions Removed from House-Passed SECURE Act
This week, the House passed the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act that was initially reported out of the Ways and Means Committee last month with provisions to expand 529 education plans for homeschooling and for private school “expenses in addition to tuition.” Because of direct and grassroots advocacy by NSBA, the Massachusetts Association of School Committees and other education groups, those provisions were removed before the legislation was cleared for floor consideration by the House Rules Committee. After a brief debate yesterday, the House approved the SECURE Act (H.R. 1994) by a vote of 417-3-11.
The SECURE Act would expand 529 plans, however, for certain expenses associated with registered apprenticeship programs (such as fees, books, supplies, and equipment required for the participation of a designated beneficiary in an apprenticeship program registered and certified with the U.S. Secretary of Labor under the National Apprenticeship Act). In addition, the House-passed bill would allow distributions from 529 plans for student loan repayments, namely a “qualified higher education expense” up to $10,000 annually.
H.R. 1994 is now headed to the Senate where a unanimous consent vote could occur. We will continue to oppose the addition of any voucher provisions as the legislation moves forward.
House Judiciary Approves Legislation for DACA
This week, the House Judiciary Committee convened for more than eight hours to consider three immigration bills, including H.R. 2820, the Dream Act of 2019, sponsored by Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA). The Dream Act would apply to participants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that was suspended in 2017 and then resumed under a court order to continue to process applications of eligible individuals until the courts reach a conclusion in the matter. The Committee approved the Dream Act by a vote of 19 to 10.
The Dream Act would establish a “special procedure for applicants with DACA,” and states that the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security “shall establish a streamlined procedure for aliens who have been granted DACA and who meet the requirements for renewal (under the terms of the program in effect on January 1, 2017) to apply for cancellation of removal and adjustment of status to that of an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence on a conditional basis …”
Public school districts fulfill their legal obligation to educate children regardless of their immigration status. As adopted by NSBA’s Delegate Assembly, NSBA urges Congress to amend the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 to authorize the cancellation of removal, resolve immigration status, and work toward United States citizenship of undocumented students who are long-term United States residents.
Further, NSBA urges the Administration to provide all of the support possible, as permitted by local and federal law, to serve all students, including undocumented students.
Municipal Finance Caucus Leaders Introduce Legislation to Reinstate Advance Refunding
This week Representatives Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD) and Steve Stivers (R-OH), who co-chair the bipartisan House Municipal Finance Caucus, introduced a bill (H.R. 2772) to restore advance refunding of municipal bonds.
Through advance refunding, school districts and other units of government could refinance outstanding bonds at lower interest rates; thereby, redirecting more resources to education and securing additional savings for taxpayers. The ability to continue advance refunding was eliminated by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. Hence, H.R. 2772 would amend the federal tax code to reinstate advance refunding of bonds.
In a letter to the U.S. House of Representatives, NSBA and other organizations representing state and local governments wrote that, “If enacted, this critical piece of legislation would reinstate a financing tool that saves our country billions.” For example, from 2013-2017, the advance refunding of municipal securities saved taxpayers at least $12 billion.
Please contact your representatives and urge them to co-sponsor H.R. 2772. This legislation is also relevant to ongoing discussions regarding national infrastructure investments. NSBA supports the utilization of tax-exempt bonds for construction and other capital improvement projects approved by traditional local school boards. Further, NSBA opposes any efforts to limit the issuance, tax-exempt status and advance refunding of such bonds through changes in the federal tax code.
Personnel Development Grants to Improve Services and Results for Children with Disabilities
The U.S. Department of Education published the following notice from its Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services:
“Application for New Awards: Personnel Development to Improve Services and Results for Children with Disabilities – Preparation of Special Education, Early Intervention, and Related Services Leadership Personnel” – This program focuses on addressing state-identified needs for personnel preparation in special education, early intervention, and regular education to work with children with disabilities. Further, this program ensures that personnel are well equipped to be successful in serving these children by providing them with the necessary skills and knowledge through practices that are based on scientifically based research and experience. The estimated available funds for this program are $4,250,000 and are contingent upon the availability of funds and quality of applications. Applications are due July 8, 2019. Further information is available here.
U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools Announced
The U.S. Department of Education has announced its 2019 Green Ribbon Schools, District Sustainability Awardees, and Postsecondary Sustainability Awardees.
Across the country, 35 schools, 14 districts, and four postsecondary institutions are being honored for their innovative efforts to address the three "Pillars" of the program: reducing environmental impact and utility costs, improving health and wellness, and ensuring effective sustainability education. The honorees were named from a pool of candidates nominated by 28 states. Thirty-six percent of the 2019 honorees serve a disadvantaged student body.
The list of all selected schools, districts, colleges and universities, as well as their nomination packages, can be found here. A report with highlights on the 53 honorees can be found here. More information on the federal recognition award is posted here. Resources for all schools to move toward the three Pillars can be found here.
Courtesy of NSBA's Federal Advocacy & Public Policy Update - Week of May 24, 2019